The X-Files revival didn't get off to a promising start two weeks ago, but if the disappointing premiere scared you off, it's time to come back. Last night's episode, "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster," was the series at its best.
"I forgot how much fun these cases can be," muses Scully at one point.
You and me both, Scully.
First, a little history. Episode writer and director Darin Morgan is known for his contributions to The X-Files, but even then, it's only a handful of episodes -- Morgan doesn't write much, The X-Files or no. But when he gets around to it, it's spectacular, as evidenced by this murderers' row of fascinating stories:
- "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'"
- "War of the Coprophages"
- "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"
(Shocking side note: apparently Morgan was wore the Flukeman suit?!)
There's an interesting through line between those episodes: humour. Given how darkly serious The X-Files is most of the time, it's easy to forget how damn funny the show could be. Granted, the reason those episodes worked so well is because of tonal whiplash; the wacky feel was a welcomed breath of fresh air.
This episode's setup is simple: there are reports of a green "monster" attacking people. With no other explanation in sight, Mulder and Scully are brought in.
"Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster" makes few references to the confusing, mythology-shaking events from the premiere, nor the relationship building that happened between the two in the second episode. (Which, for the record, I liked quite a bit.) It feels like we're in the middle of a random season for The X-Files, not a mini-series event that will be gone in the flash of an eye.
But while it could have been dropped into the series' past, clever writing gives it a bigger impact in the present. The episode opens with Mulder tossing darts at his "I Want to Believe" poster, bemoaning how his favourite "mysteries" have been explained by science or Occam's razor: they were faked. He's devoted so much of his life to investigating these quirky events, and it might have been for nothing. Mulder represents a desire for the world to be slightly more spectacular than it really is, but if science can explain everything, does that make it boring?
There's a particularly great sequence where Mulder has a conversation with himself in front of of Scully, as he plays out the ways she typically responds to his outlandish theories. If The X-Files wants to propose that time has made Mulder, the eternal optimist, into a cynic, it's an interesting angle. They failed to make a credible case for that when the series started, but here, it works.
If Mulder no longer believes, who will? I'll follow you down that hole, X-Files.
This isn't meant to be a recap of "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster," but I can tell you it's very good. The twists are genuinely unexpected, and it's funny as hell. It's not purely absurdist, either; this episode has something to say about Mulder, Scully, The X-Files, and human nature. Like I said, a curve ball.
(Disappointing side note: Jezebel author Julianne Escobedo Shepherd has some insightful observations about the episode's fumbled attempt to talk about transgender issues. I was scratching my head during that bit, as well.)
Though we're only getting six episodes of The X-Files -- for now -- I'm delighted the powers that be gave this beloved but underappreciated corner of the series a shout-out. "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster" is not only the best episode in this run of The X-Files so far, but a genuinely great episode -- period.
I'm still cackling at Mulder trying to use his "new camera app," by the way.